Sunday Cover Story: Bridge to Afghanistan – Eva Olbers and Delia Stamate

Eva Olbers is the co-founder of Bridge to Afghanistan project, while Delia is a mentor for a young lady in Afghanistan.

Quick bio – Delia Stamate

Quick bio – Eva Olbers
Delia graduated two bachelor`s degrees and a master in Management Science in Belgium. She worked in several fields from diplomacy to business and she is currently working in Corporate Actions for Global Financial Markets in a bank. She believed her life purpose, apart from her full-time job is to help people. She is Board Member and Project Coordinator at Butterfly Dreamer Network for several years, and mentor in “Bridge To Afghanistan” project.

Eva is a student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she focuses on technology and education policy. Before her degree, Eva worked as a strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, and spent several years in the education technology and venture capital space across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Eva is the co-founder of the not-for-profit “Bridge To Afghanistan”, a mentorship program for young women in Kabul. Eva holds a Master in Science (MSc) from the London Business School and is conversational in 7 languages.

 

1. Tell us a little bit more about yourself: who you are, what you do, why you do it.

Since I was a child, I have always thought I can create a better world. I have a full-time job, a job that I like and the volunteer work that I do for the network helps me to change the world, in some ways. I believe that in this life we all need to leave something behind. I also believe in the power of mentorship and leadership – people connect with values and only together we can create a better society.

1. Tell us a little bit more about yourself: who you are, what you do, why you do it.

When I was a teenager, I worked as a teacher in a small village in rural Rajasthan, India. This sparked my interest to find out how technology can be used to make education more accessible around the world, especially in developing countries. I am currently a student at Harvard University where I want to discover how to make education more inclusive through policy setting. I am also a strong believer in the power of mentorship, and I think if young people around the world connect to support each other, we can achieve great things together.

 

2. Tell us more about the project Bridge to Afghanistan.

 

I joined this project as a mentor for a young woman in Afghanistan. Due to my previous experience, as a mentor and coordinator at Global Internship Program and due to the work that I do in UMANG International Mentorship Program in Pakistan, I succeeded to connect with Eva and became a mentor for this program. I am glad to know that in my free time, I can help people from the other side of the world and advise them regarding different topics such as CV writing, English language etc. It is a unique experience, and I am grateful I am part of it.

2. Tell us more about the project Bridge to Afghanistan.

Bridge to Afghanistan is not-for-profit program that provides mentorship to young women in Afghanistan via Skype. We connect young university students in Kabul and surroundings to (female) mentors in Europe and the US. Our aim is to build bridges between the youth of Afghanistan and the rest of the world and to support young women with leadership training, employability skills training and general mentorship. The mentees and mentors usually connect a few times a week via Skype and email. The initiative was founded in 2017 by myself and my co-founder Mohammad Mansoor Akbar, who is based in Kabul and is responsible for the mentee recruitment in Afghanistan. We hope to have a direct impact on young people’s lives. None of this would be possible without the help of our dedicated mentors who pour a lot of their time, knowledge and passion into the mission of the program.

 

3. Are there any challenges?

Internet connection and other challenges that inevitably appear in the area, such as peace efforts. The communication so far is good and the discussions seem to go in the direction wanted by the mentee. The mentee is so far content with the discussions we had and it is great to be in contact with such an amazing woman. She is not the only one that learns from me, I also learn from her, from her culture, from her knowledge.

3. Were there any challenges?

Yes, we faced and are still facing a number of challenges. Given the intermittent internet access in Afghanistan, communication channels sometimes get disrupted, and we need to treat the mentorship with a high degree of flexibility to make sure we can continuously be in touch with our mentees. There are also certain cultural issues. We made sure to only recruit female mentors for female mentees, as anything else would have made some of the mentees feel uncomfortable, given the cultural context. Finally, the concept of mentorship is not as well known in other parts of the world, so prior to introducing a mentor-mentee pair, we have to make sure all parties understand the goal of the program and have the same expectations.

 

4. Where do you see yourself in the future?

As Eva, I also have a passion to make the world a better place by making educational opportunities more accessible around the world. I want to continue to grow in the banking environment, and to do project in order to help people, to make a better world, in the ways that I can.

4. Where do you see yourself in the future?

I have a passion to make the world a better place by making educational opportunities more accessible around the world. I am particularly interested in education, technology and politics, so I hope to have an impact in the intersection of these fields. This could mean starting my own company, working in the technology sector, or being part of an intergovernmental organization that focuses on these issues. I definitely see myself working across countries and cultures but I still have not fully figured out my exact path and am waiting to see what life throws at me. In my personal experience, some degree of serendipity and being open to new opportunities usually presents the most exciting pathways!

 

5. Address some words to people, to youngsters, to change makers.

As Tupac once said that he did not change the world, but he believed he would sparkle the brain that would change the world. I have been listening to Tupac’s music since I was 13 and I agree that his music, his lyrics have inspired me to make effective changes.

I would like to share 11 rules that guided me throughout my life and I think people would like to know them:

  • You are human, stay human
  • Be the change you want to see in the world
  • Create a better world
  • Live simply
  • Do you want to sell sugar water all your life, or do you want to change the world?
  • If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters
  • Let your smile change the world but do not let the world change your smile
  • Don’t stop until you’re proud of yourself
  • People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, people will never forget how you made them feel
  • My mama always used to tell me: if you can’t find something to live for, you best find something to die for
  • When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

5. Address some words to people, to youngsters, to change makers.

 

If there is one word I would like young people to think about, it is this one: authenticity. Being authentic is one of the biggest strengths that you can utilize, and everyone has it in their own way. This means being authentic to yourself, to your own values, to your passions or to your life mission.

Life is too short to be inauthentic or to change who we are in order to please others’ or society’s expectation. Everybody has their own unique story, and that is what makes life so exciting! If you are a young person, ask yourself right now: when am I at my happiest and most productive? What was a defining time in my life when I realized what I am passionate about? What is a problem or issue in the world that I want to change or want to work on?

Being open-minded, having curiosity, being tolerant and eager to learn are huge assets that you can use, every day. Surround yourself with people who care about you and bring out the best in yourself.

Being a change maker will not always be easy, but if you stay determined and positive, you will be able to change something just by being the authentic version of yourself.

We need you in this world and you have a responsibility to use the talents that have been given to you. Only when you have intrinsic motivation and believe in what you do, will you truly fulfill your potential.

I cannot wait to see you do great things 🙂

 

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